fallout vb

The Fallout Series Validates A Decade-Old Fan Theory About Vault Boy

Rule of thumb.

With Prime Video’s excellent Fallout series adaptation finally out of the vault, it’s given plenty of current and lapsed fans a rejuvenated reverence for the world that began with the Interplay original and has only grown since Bethesda took over as custodians and broke new ground in the modern, first-person RPG entries.

One constant that’s remained throughout the series is the iconic Vault Boy, who’s becoming something of a mastic for the Fallout franchise over and above his usual role of being the poster kid for things like skills, stats and perks in the games. Ask anyone what they see as Vault Boy’s “default” appearance, and you’ll more than likely conjure in their minds the image of VB giving a big ol’ enthusiastic thumbs-up, with a wink in one eye to complete the pose.

Very mild, early first episode spoilers below.

Now, if you’ve watched at least the first few minutes of the first episode of the Fallout television series, you might notice a similarity. In the scene, which shows us what life looks like in this universe before the bombs fall that kick off the centuries of post-apocalyptic chaos that follows, a still-human Cooper Howard (played by the eminent Walton Goggins) shows his daughter a simple trick to determining the present danger of a visible explosion.

Holding up his thumb, and squinting one eye, ‘Coop’ explains the theory that if the mushroom cloud is smaller than your thumb, you need to run. If it’s bigger, however, you’re already too late. It’s the setup to a shocking moment where Coop’s daughter sees the first explosion before the others in attendance can notice, asking her dad if he meant his thumb or hers as fire rains down on Downtown LA.

fallout review

Which brings us back to that iconic Vault Boy pose. Could it be that, this entire time, Vault Boy hasn’t been giving us a very positive and encouraging thumbs up and wink, and has instead been employing Coop’s “One Simple Trick to Determining How Much Time You Have Left” while displaying an entirely inappropriate grin? The internet certainly seemed to think so, and long before Prime Video’s series was even an idea of a thought. All the way back in 2014, even before the launch of Bethesda’s Fallout 4, a fan theory gained traction that Vault Boy’s thumbs up pose was something more sinister.

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Users on Reddit, after learning of the Thumb Theory when it comes to explosions, were quick to make the connection and the community went kinda ballistic over it. So much so that Interplay founder Brian Fargo and original art director Tramell Ray Isaac actually felt the need to address the theory, throwing water on it at the time by confirming that Vault Boy’s pose was “simply a sign of his positive attitude.”

Now though, it’s hard to see that first scene of the Prime Video’s Fallout and not conclude that the creators of the series, which Bethesda’s Todd Howard has already stated is considered canon, have chosen to make a hard call on Vault Boy’s classic pose and gone with the darker version of events, either inspired by the fan chatter or just coincidentally in support of it. I reckon it works, too, given the franchise’s penchant for presenting the horrors of war and nuclear fallout with an unfiltered sense of glee. It also validates a 10-year-old Reddit fan theory, which we love to see.

All episodes of Fallout are available to watch now exclusively on Prime Video. Find out more here and read our review here.